Articles Archives - Ben Michaelis, PhD

“13 Questions A Grown-Ass Woman Should Be Able To Answer About Her Partner” – Romper

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The beginnings of a new relationship are exciting, partially because everything is brand-new. That honeymoon phase is a time to learn about your partner and put together their pieces of their personality puzzle, so to speak. Eventually, you start to think that the relationship could turn into something more serious. (Are those are wedding bells you hear?) It’s a thrilling realization, but also one that requires further reflection. The fact is there are some questions that a grown-ass woman should be able to answer about her partner if she thinks it has a chance of going somewhere more serious.

Whether you’re trying to define the relationship, contemplating co-habitation, planning a wedding, or something else that shows your commitment, you need to know the answers to more than just the superficial questions if you think the relationship has the potential to last forever. (Though, to be fair, knowing what show your partner likes to watch after a bad day can come in handy.) You need to know the answer to some of the more difficult, and potentially awkward, questions that can arise when two lives merge.

Grown-ass women can’t afford to tiptoe around important topics; they need to embrace them. The better you know your partner, the stronger your relationship will be. Here are just some of the questions you need to ask.

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“Birth Order And Personality: Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Middle Child Syndrome” – Medical Daily

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Many people who are a brother or a sister to someone are familiar with the fine art of sibling rivalry. Three siblings can triangulate sibling relationships, meaning one child (most likely the middle) can feel left out from the bond of the other two (the oldest and the youngest). Those who feel they get lost in the sibling shuffle are deemed as suffering from “middle child syndrome.”

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“7 Things You Do Every Day That People Think Are Creepy AF'” – Romper

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Unless you work as a tour guide for haunted houses, you’re probably not intentionally giving folks the heebie jeebies. Some behaviors, however, are downright unnerving no matter how inadvertent they may be. If people step back in the elevator or give you side-eye on a regular basis and you don’t know why, it could have to do with your quirks. As it turns out, there are quite a few surprising things you’re doing that people find creepy, and you may not even be aware of them. The silver lining here is that arming yourself with knowledge is the first step to breaking off-putting habits.

There’s an old saying about how one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. The same concept can be applied to how people perceive other’s actions. It may be completely obvious to you that clipping your toenails should be done in the privacy of your own home, but someone else could think it’s completely normal to do in public. That’s why it can be a bit of a gray area when it comes to determining whether or not how you’re behaving is disconcerting to others. If you’re curious to see what kind of behavior is looked down upon socially, then check out these surprising things you’re doing that people find creepy.

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“13 Millennial Women On How Their Friendships Have Changed Since The 2016 Election” – Bustle

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A lot has changed in the six months since Donald Trump was sworn into office, both on a political level and a personal one. Bustle’s State of Our Unions serieslooks at how millennial women’s relationships with their friends, family members, and romantic partners have been affected since the 2016 election. Today’s topic: millennial women on how their friendships are being impacted.

It pretty much goes without saying that things have changed since the 2016 election. No matter which side of the political fence you’re on, you’re bound to have noticed that President Trump’s election has had a major impact on day-to-day life in America. Because Trump was such a controversial candidate, people have been super outspoken about politics both leading up to and in the wake of his election. The “Trump Effect” is super real, and you need look no further than your Facebook feed for proof, where previously unengaged friends and acquaintances are up in arms, actively protesting, raising money for charities, unfriending political foes, and debating one another over the issues they feel passionately about.

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“Sneaky Ways Your Partner’s Parents Can Affect Your Relationship” – The List

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When it comes to dating, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. But sometimes it’s not what you’re doing that’s causing problems in your relationship, it’s the parents. Whether yours or your partner’s, parents can certainly have a way of butting in where they shouldn’t and can turn your relationship sour.

To get the scoop on what kind of meddling behavior to watch out for from mom and dad, I interviewed noted psychologist Dr. Ben Michaelis, who has been featured in magazines like Women’s Health, The Washington Post and Parents and professional matchmaker Susan Trombetti, who runs Exclusive Matchmaking in Maryland and has written features in Cosmopolitan and Shape.

Between these two experts, there’s a lot of expert advice that you need to pay attention to if you want to save your relationship from parental interference.

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“THIS Is The Best Time To Move In With Your Partner, According To Couples Therapists” – Women’s Health

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Thinking about moving in together is as exciting as it is terrifying, especially since it opens the door to a whole new level of intimacy (poop schedules are just the tip of the iceberg). And with all of the advice you’ve been getting from family and friends (unsolicited, but still), deciding if you and your beau are ready to share an address can be, well, confusing.”Because every relationship unfolds at its own pace, it’s important to define the right time to move in together largely apart from the traditional measurement of time (days, weeks, months),” says Michele Marsh, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and supervisor in the Couple and Family Therapy Department at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. In other words, it’s a decision based on what stage your relationship is in, or how your relationship is developing, rather than how long you’ve been together, she says.

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“11 Signs You’re Not Enjoying Sex With Your Partner As Much As You Should Be” – Bustle

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A healthy sex life is an important part of a relationship, so it can be quite the bummer if you feel like you’re not enjoying sex with your partner. This can become a huge problem between couples — and is often exacerbated by expectations and stories from friends about what’s “normal” — so the sooner you can fix things the better you’ll feel.

Recognizing that there may be an issue with your sex life is the first step. But figuring out why you aren’t enjoying yourself? Well, that can be a bit trickier. Once you’ve ruled out physical health issues and things like depression, which can really affect your desire to have sex, it’ll be necessary to talk with your partner about some other possible explanations.

If you don’t, you two might grow even further apart. And that’s certainly not what you want. “Sex is bonding,” says Dr. Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist and creator of “When members of a couple have a strong intimate physical connections with each other they feel closer and the relationship bond, including feelings of commitment and loyalty are enhanced. For most, but not all, couples, a strong sexual bond is essential for a strong romantic relationship.” Read on for some signs it may be time to work on your sex life, all in the name of having a better time — and having a healthier relationship.

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“Trump wasn’t always so linguistically challenged. What could explain the change?” – Stat News

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It was the kind of utterance that makes professional transcribers question their career choice:

“ … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.”

When President Trump offered that response to a question at a press conference last week, it was the latest example of his tortured syntax, mid-thought changes of subject, and apparent trouble formulating complete sentences, let alone a coherent paragraph, in unscripted speech.

He was not always so linguistically challenged.

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“Small ways you can be a better friend” – The List

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Over the course of your life, many different friendships will begin and end. They’ll ebb and flow as you grow and your life changes, through big moves, breakups, new jobs, engagements and weddings, or the journey towards starting a family, if that’s what you choose.

There are all different kinds of friends — old friends who have been part of your life, it seems, for as long as you have, college friends, coworker friends, friends you meet in the midst of a postpartum breakdown, friends who are like family, and friends who are really no more than acquaintances. Throughout the course of these friendships, there will undoubtedly be times when you’re the picture of loyal selflessness, and other times when, well, you don’t put in as much time with them as you probably should.

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“How Guessing Works” – How Stuff Works

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Life is sort of like one big guessing game. All day long, we venture guesses about everything from the mundane, like calling heads or tails on a coin toss, to guessing someone’s height to more nuanced speculations, such as a person’s true intentions. Much as we hate to admit it, humans don’t actually know everything, especially when multiple variables are involved. That’s when the act of guessing comes into play.

“Before books, before libraries, before Google, guessing was the only way humans navigated in the world,” explains David Ezell, CEO and clinical director of counseling and mental wellness group, Darien Wellness in Darien, Connecticut. (As a cognitive behavioral therapist, he says he talks to people all day long about how they guess and how those guesses affect them). “Throughout the days, thousands of decisions had to be made with little or no facts. So, guessing was the way humans decided to eat a red berry (or not), or go down the left path instead of the right.”

The exact mechanisms behind how our brains land on one guess or another are not technically known yet. “There isn’t really the neuroscience to say this pathway or that. The brain is very interconnected and this is sort of a global process,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and the author of “The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius.'”

Certain types of guesses do benefit from specific areas of the brain, even though they’re probably not the only parts involved. “The cerebral cortex or cerebellum has been demonstrated to be involved in hunches. Neuroscientists have long known that guessing generally involves the activation of regions distributed throughout the brain,” says Dr. Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist and creator of the One Minute Diagnosis website in an email interview. “When you are guessing about visual subjects your frontal lobe and occipital lobe are activated. When you are guessing about numerical quantities the superior parietal lobe has been shown to be activated.”

This isn’t terribly surprising, as the parietal lobe is associated with a lot of capabilities that influence guessing, such as spatial position, object identification and body navigation. The frontal lobe is responsible for personality, sense of smell and movement, and the occipital lobe handles vision. The temporal lobe can affect guessing success, since it’s in charge of memory, as well as speech [source: Johns Hopkins Medicine].

Factors That Affect Guessing Accuracy

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The principal lobes of the brain are the frontal (yellow), temporal (green), parietal (pink) and occipital (red) lobes. The cerebellum (purple) controls muscle coordination, balance and posture. SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES

Clearly, guessing is not static across the board. There are many types of guessing, including:

Wild guesses – Occasionally we do throw caution by the wayside and venture a guess off the top of our heads, with zero outside information or input (hopefully, not about something too important).

Educated guesses – This is the “middle ground” of guessing, in which people tend to choose a ballpark figure based on having some information (as opposed to picking a number at random).

Estimating – People have information that is going to inform their answers, such as knowledge about the likely distance, volume or past behavior that are valuable tools in determining the guess.

Intuition is not exactly a form of guessing, but it does play a role, even if you’re not aware that you have the information squirreled away in your brain. “From a brain or neurologic perspective there can be implicit or unconscious recall in the memory that is not in your awareness, but is informing your guess,” Saltz says of intuition. “Most guesses are leaning toward something because of implicit memories and unconscious information.”

A large part of that is knowing what affects our guesses in the first place. “The problem sometimes with guessing is that one can conjure up a memory that may not be accurate, but may feel really accurate,” Saltz says.

Incorrect memories aren’t the only things keeping us from venturing accurate guesses. Emotional state and ties can also get in the way. Saltz explains that people with high anxiety or who are risk averse tend to have trouble with accurate guesses of others’ emotions. Also, if you have a significant emotional connection to one potential answer, it’s the one most likely to “pop out,” making you think it’s the correct answer, when in fact, the emotional tie is coloring your view.

Certain people also inherently have skill sets that make them better at some kinds of guesses. Consider a scenario when you’re trying to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar at a county fair. People with superior math and spatial relation abilities will likely come closer to the correct answer than people with other strengths.

While you probably won’t ever learn to guess with 100 percent accuracy, there are ways to fine-tune the skill.

Getting Better at Guessing

Remember that “guess the jelly beans in the jar” scenario? Just because you were off by a couple hundred or so doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. It’s entirely possible to improve guessing abilities, both as it relates to concrete examples like the jelly bean jar, or by accurately surmising other people’s intentions/opinions. How? “If you can practice a specific type of guessing and get feedback about your guesses … your guesses will become more accurate over time,” says Michaelis.

There are some steps to take when engaging in an items-in-the-jar contest that can narrow your guessing field. Clark University researchers in Massachusetts found that spherical objects, when put in a container randomly (as opposed to careful packing) occupy about 64 percent of said container [source: Baker and Kudrolli]. Non-spherical objects, like cubes or “peanuts,” take up somewhere between 50 and 54 percent of the space. Jelly beans were not studied, but they aren’t likely to be any better than the other nonspherical objects because their uneven shapes don’t allow them to settle as efficiently as those with evenly distributed sides [source: Schewe].

That’s all fine and dandy, but how’s a regular person to parlay that into an accurate guess? “First, estimate the size of the jar,” says New York University researcher and physics expert Jasna Brujic in a Scientific American interview. “Then look to see if all the candies are the same size. If they are, take 64 percent of that volume and divide it by the size of the candy to get the total number that would randomly fit inside. If they aren’t equally sized, divide a slightly larger area, around 70 percent, by the average size of the candies.”

So, grab a calculator, a few jars of differing sizes and a couple packs of leftover jelly beans. The formula sounds complex, but will probably be easier to figure after a couple of practice rounds.

Overcoming Cognitive Distortions

Another area where people often guess incorrectly is in reading other people’s emotions (or their own). This is called cognitive distortion, inaccurate thoughts that often encourage negative thinking. Unfortunately, we all fall victim to thinking errors to a degree. Two examples are polarized thinking (everything is either “wonderful” or “terrible”) and jumping to conclusions [source: Grohol]. To illustrate, therapist Ezell offers the following example of how thinking errors affect guessing: A boy walks into a room, sees a girl and reads the expression on her face as “she doesn’t like me.”

“The primary cognitive distortions involved here are polarized thinking, overgeneralization and jumping to conclusions,” Ezell says. “Polarized thinking has him assuming she has an opinion — how does he know she even had a feeling one way or the other? Overgeneralization has him thinking girls have negative reactions — possibly based on history, but also driven by self-esteem issues. Jumping to conclusions, or mind reading — we never know what anyone is really thinking. We can guess but we will never know.”

So, the boy’s guess that the girl doesn’t like him is entirely based on inaccurate assumptions and intuition. “Catching these automatic thoughts —what we have been calling guesses — and running them through an evidence-based process — will help us understand other people and in turn, ourselves,” Ezell says.

The process has a lot to do with resisting snap judgements, evaluating real information and taking a more positive approach. For example, human instinct is to assume that someone doesn’t like us if they cast a less-than-friendly look in our direction, when in fact it could have been completely unintentional, and merely the result of a difficult day or other encounter.

“Jumping to conclusions is defined as making interpretations without actual evidence,” explains licensed mental health counselor Donna White in a blog for Psych Central. “If you find yourself engaging in this type of thinking, take a step back and ask yourself ‘do I really know this to be true?’ If the answer is ‘no’, then focus on the things that you know to be true.”

Although it might seem inconsequential to get the wrong idea about a mere glance or other misguided guess, it can actually have lasting repercussions. “The problem with guesses is that our brain doesn’t remember it’s a guess. We accept our guesses as facts,” Ezell says. “If we could maintain that memory of that thought not being totally accurate we would be in a much better space. But that is what people who are self-aware do. They know when things are true, they know when things are hypotheses and they know when things are purely a guess.”

Author’s Note: How Guessing Works

We make dozens of guesses every day, whether we realize it or not. Although I don’t have much interest in mastering the beans-in-a-jar type of guessing, I find the concept of overcoming cognitive distortions to be intriguing, potentially beneficial and just plain smart.

This article was originally published on How Stuff Works